Show of 05-08-2021

Tech Talk May 8, 2021

Email and Forum Questions

  • Facebook Post from Steve: Good evening. Just wanted to let you folks know that you have a great radio show. Steve
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for listening. Love the feedback.
  • Facebook Post from Eric McDonald: Can I get customer service help? My computer, when powered on for the first time each day, will freeze after 10-15 minutes, but run fine after rebooting. While it is a problem I can endure, I’d rather see what is causing it and if I can fix it! Thanks. Eric McDonald
  • Tech Talk Responds: A computer freeze can cause lost work, but one or two freezes do not usually indicate an underlying problem. When your machine freezes regularly within a short time of booting, however, it can point to a number of problems.
    • Check for Viruses — Computer viruses can cause a wide range of abnormal behaviors, including using up your computer’s processing power to the point of locking up the system. You should also run a scan with an anti-malware program, which can catch other types of invasive software that can harm system performance.
    • Track Your Computer Use — When your computer freezes repeatedly within a regular time period, track how you use your machine. You may be running the same program every day. If so, try doing something else, such as letting the computer sit idle past the time it normally freezes. If the problem goes away, your software is probably causing the freeze.
    • Check for Error Details — Windows keeps a log of errors it encounters, which may provide details about your freezes. Enter “Event Viewer’ in the Task Bar Search Field and open the application. Open “Windows Logs” and check both the System and Application categories for errors that occurred around the time of the last freeze. Error logs may mention specific files.
    • Update Your System — Windows Update downloads system bug fixes that fix glitches and incompatibilities, which can cause freezes. You can update manually or schedule automatic updates from the Windows Update control panel.
    • Hardware Problems — Tracking down hardware issues requires a great deal of time and access to spare parts. The best way to test individual computer components is by replacing one at a time. Internal dust buildup can cause your computer to overheat. Open the case and clean the dust out of fans. This may solve the problem. If your fans do not seem to run at all, check their connections and replace them if necessary.
  • Facebook Post from Ken Hutchinson: I have a WordPress web page. How does somebody’s computer get the malware (such as by going to the page as the administrator)? How can I find out if my site has the malware? Ken Hutchinson
  • Tech Talk Responds: If there’s one thing worse than WordPress malware that adds spam links to your website, it’s infections that redirects visitors to other websites. In some cases, the malicious code may redirect users to an unsecured copy of your website, hoping to get their personal information.
    • Check for malware — If you suspect that your website has malware, a good tool to help identify it is a URL scanner. There are several websites that will scan any URL for free, such as VirusTotal which uses over 60 antivirus scanners and URL/domain blacklisting services to see if your URL has been flagged for malware.
    • Clean Your Site — Sucuri (http://sucuri.net) has an excellent guide for cleaning malware from your site. If you are unable to complete, the process they can clean your site for a fee. This service is highly recommended.
    • Protect Your Site — Finally, secure your website with a WordPress security plugin. There are several, but I would recommend Wordfence. It has over 4 million active users and is highly rated.
  • Email from Allen in Kansas City: I downloaded a photo last night with Chrome. While I was retrieving it from the Downloads folder, I noticed there is a file named setup.exe in there. I have not downloaded a software program in well over a year so I do not know how that file got in there. Do you think might be a virus? I ran a scan with BitDefender and it came up clean, but I know that some antivirus programs do not always detect viruses. If you do think it is a virus, how can I safely remove it since BitDefender did not flag it as malicious? Allen in Kansas City
  • Tech Talk Responds: Since you haven’t intentionally downloaded any software in well over a year there’s always a chance that file is a virus. First, run the file through VirusTotal by following the steps in this post by following the steps below:
    • Go to visit http://VirusTotal.com.
    • Click the Choose file button.
    • Navigate to the file you want to check for viruses and then follow the prompts as they appear.
    • VirusTotal will scan the file using several dozen top-rated antivirus engines and report the result of each of those scans.
  • If every one of those virus scans report that no malware was found, the file probably is not infected with a virus. At that point you can safely delete it by right-clicking on the file and then clicking Delete file.
  • If one or more of the antivirus engines does flag the file as infected with a virus, I recommend that you do the following:
    • Delete the file by right clicking on it and then clicking Delete.
    • Run another thorough scan with your regular antivirus program (in your case, BitDefender).
    • Get a second opinion using MalwareBytes (https://www.malwarebytes.com/).
  • If all of both scans fail to find any malware you can feel quite confident that your PC isn’t infected.
  • Email from Grover in White Stone: Dear Doc and Jim. I have Comcast Internet and the plan I’m on is for 200 Mbps download speed. I listened to your show when you discussed SpeedTest.net and used it to run several speed tests yesterday and again this morning. The fastest speed I got was around 65 Mbps. I called Comcast this afternoon and they ran some kind of test from their end and said I was getting all the speed I am paying for. Am I doing something wrong or is Comcast lying. Grover from White Stone, Virginia
  • Tech Talk Responds: Checking actual Internet download and upload speeds can be a little tricky. You did not mention how many computers and other devices were using your Internet connection at the times when you ran your tests, and that makes a huge difference. That 200 Mbps is then divided up among all the computers and devices that happen to be using your Internet connection at any given time. For example, if someone in your house is watching a movie on Netflix while you’re watching a YouTube video, neither of your devices are going to be receiving data at the full 200 Mbps. Your total bandwidth will be shared between those devices. I have this problem in my house (three TVs, two iPhone, two computers, and more).
  • To get an accurate measurement, do the following.
    • Make sure your computer or mobile device is the only device in your house that is actively using your Internet connection while you run the test. You can do that by either turning the other devices off, temporarily disconnecting them from the network or placing them in Airplane Mode.
    • Run SpeedTest.net again from your computer.
  • I suspect to you now see the full 200 Mbps. If you do not then Comcast should send a tech out to your house to see what is going on.
  • Azra from Fredericksburg; Dear Tech Talk. I have been taking some great videos recently with my iPhone. I have been able to edit them, add title page and music, using iMovie. I just love being a producer. I would like to send my movies to friends but they are too large to send as email attachments. What is my best option? Azra in Fredericksburg, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: You have a easy option, assuming that you are saving your pictures and movies to your iCloud account. I you are not, you should be in order to ensure your files are back up. Open up your photos and go the video in question. Click on the share button in the lower left corner. Click copy iCloud link. Now you simply past that link into a text message or email. You friends can view the video directly from you iCloud account. If you have many videos, you can create a shared album.

Profiles in IT: Vitaly Dmitriyevich “Vitalik” Buterin

  • Vitaly Dmitriyevich “Vitalik” Buterin is a Russian-Canadian programmer and writer who is best known as one of the co-founders of Ethereum.
  • Buterin was born January 31, 1994, in Kolomna, Russia.
  • He lived in the area until the age of six when his parents immigrated to Canada in search of better employment opportunities.
  • On getting his first computer, this boy developed a fascination with the spreadsheets on Microsoft Excel. He was a mathematical whizz kid, a bit too clever for his peers.
  • While in grade three of elementary school in Canada, Buterin was placed into a class for gifted children and was drawn to mathematics, programming, and economics.
  • Buterin then attended the Abelard School, a private high school in Toronto.
  • Buterin learned about Bitcoin, from his father, at age 17.[7]
  • After high school, Buterin attended the University of Waterloo. There, he took advanced courses and was a research assistant for cryptographer Ian Goldberg.
  • In 2011, Buterin began writing for a publication called Bitcoin Weekly after meeting a person on a bitcoin forum in order to earn bitcoin.
  • The owner offered five bitcoin (about $3.50 at the time) to anyone who would write an article for him.
  • In September 2011, Mihai Alisie reached out to Buterin about starting a new print publication called Bitcoin Magazine, a position which Buterin would accept as the first co-founder, and contribute to as a leading writer.
  • Bitcoin Magazine in 2012 later began publishing a print edition and has been referred to as the first serious publication dedicated to cryptocurrencies.
  • In addition, he held a position on the editorial board of Ledger, a peer-reviewed scholarly journal that publishes full-length original research articles on the subjects of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.
  • In 2012, he won a bronze medal in the International Olympiad in Informatics.
  • When he failed to gain agreement, he proposed development of a new platform with a more general scripting language.
  • He eventually dropped out of the University to travel the world to meet crypto enthusiasts in other countries where his true passion lay. He believe that bitcoin needed a scripting language for application development, but could not get consensus.
  • In 2013, at 19 years of age, Buterin, at 19-years-old came up with the design of Ethereum in a white paper.
  • In 2014 when he was awarded with a grant of $100,000 from the Thiel Fellowship to work on Ethereum full-time rather than go back to school.
  • Unlike Bitcoin, it was not created to be digital money. Instead, Buterin set out to build a new kind of global, decentralized computing platform that takes the security and openness of Blockchains and extends those attributes to a vast range of applications.
  • Everything from financial tools and games to complex databases are already running on the Ethereum blockchain. And its future potential is only limited by developers’ imaginations. Ethereum can be used to codify, decentralize, secure and trade just about anything.
  • Ethereum, is a “decentralized mining network and software development platform rolled into one” that facilitates the creation of new cryptocurrencies and programs that share a single blockchain (a cryptographic transaction ledger).
  • Ethereum-based apps are built using “smart contracts.” Smart contracts, like regular paper contracts, establish the terms of an arrangement between parties. But unlike an old-fashioned contract, smart contracts automatically execute without the need for any kind of intermediary.
  • The Ethereum initial coin offering (ICO) was the second public coin offering ever when it took place in 2014.
  • If you had bought 100 ETH at the time, it would have cost around $30. That 100 ETH would be worth $337,490 today.
  • Buterin has contributed as a developer to other open-source software projects. He also contributed to DarkWallet by Cody Wilson, Bitcoin Python libraries, and the cryptocurrency marketplace site Egora.
  • Ether is the second-largest cryptocurrency with a market capitalization of $376 billion after bitcoin by market value. It is also more valuable than corporations like Nestle, the Walt Disney Company and even the Bank of America.
  • With the exponential growth of the decentralized finance (DeFi), non-fungible token (NFT), and the stablecoin ecosystem, Ethereum prices have increased by more than 320 percent since the beginning of 2021.
  • Buterin’s Ether address currently holds 333,521 ETH, worth some $1,125,299,854 as of 8:19 a.m. ET on May 5, 2021, when Ether’s price was $3374.90.
  • Buterin has donated about $600,000 in ether and maker (MKR) tokens to a COVID-19 relief fund for India.

Ninety-Six Percent Leave App Tracking Disabled in iOS 14.5

  • An early look at an ongoing analysis of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency suggests that the vast majority of iPhone users are leaving app tracking disabled since the feature went live on April 26 with the release of iOS 14.5.
  • According to the latest data from analytics firm Flurry, just 4% of iPhone users in the U.S. have actively chosen to opt into app tracking after updating their device to iOS 14.5.
  • The data is based on a sampling of 2.5 million daily mobile active users. When looking at users worldwide who allow app tracking, the figure rises to 12% of users in a 5.3 million user sample size.
  • With the release of iOS 14.5, apps must now ask for and receive user permission before they can access a device’s random advertising identifier, which is used to track user activity across apps and websites.
  • Users can either enable or disable the ability for apps to ask to track them. Apple disables the setting by default.
  • Since the update almost two weeks ago, figures show a stable rate of app-tracking opt-outs, with the worldwide figure hovering between 11-13%, and 2-5% in the U.S.
  • The challenge for the personalized ads market will be significant if the first two weeks end up reflecting a long-term trend.

App of the Week: What3Words

  • What3words is a proprietary geocode system that is designed to identify any location with a resolution of about 3 metres. What3words encodes geographic coordinates into three dictionary words; the encoding is permanently fixed.
  • What3words uses a grid of the world made up of 57 x1012 squares of 3 metres by 3 metres. Each square has been given an address composed of three words. The addresses are available in 43 languages according to the what3words online map (as of May 2020), and the addresses are not translations of the same words.
  • Each what3words language uses a word-list of 25,000 words (40,000 in English, as it covers the sea as well as land). The lists have been manually filtered to take account of word length, distinctiveness, frequency, ease of spelling and pronunciation, to reduce potential for confusion, and remove offensive words.
  • The front door of 10 Downing Street in London is identified by ///slurs.this.shark. The center of the White House is ///metals.rated.purely. The Washington Monument is ///thick.odds.lift.
  • What3words has a website, apps for iOS and Android, and an API that enables bidirectional conversion between what3words addresses and latitude/longitude coordinates.
  • In February 2020 the system was used for the first time in Scotland by stranded walkers. In the same month it was used for the first time in Australia to rescue a person.
  • Download the application on the smart phone (Android and iPhone are available). If you want to send you location to some else. Use the app to identify the 3X3 meter square where you are standing. Send that three-word location to your friend, who will put it into their What3Word app. I app will navigate to your location, using compass, Google Maps, Apple Maps, Uber, or Waze.
  • Founded by Sheldrick, Jack Waley-Cohen, Mohan Ganesalingam, and Michael Dent, what3words was launched in July 2013.
  • Chris Sheldrick, a concert organizer, got the idea when he struggled to get equipment and bands to musical event locations on time due to inadequate address information.
  • The company was incorporated in March 2013 and a patent application for the core technology was filed in April 2013.
  • Controversy: not open source, proprietary (trying to make money), and culturally insensitive word selection. If it were open source and non-profit, this would dominate the navigation world.
  • Link: https://what3words.com/

Five Apps for Trading Cryptocurrencies

  • Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and the multitude of altcoins that have come after it have reached all-time highs recently. If you’re going to get the most value out of your cryptocurrency assets you need to have the ability to trade your coins no matter where you are, which is where these five apps come in. Each of them is available on both iOS and Android.
    • Binance — Binance is the largest crypto trading market in volume, and it has a good reputation for being a safe place to buy and sell Bitcoin and other altcoins, of which it supports more than 200. Binance said its app is protected by its Secure Asset Fund for Users, which is a cold wallet (not connected to the internet) filled with 10% of all trading fees Binance collects. Its user interface was designed for beginning cryptocurrency traders, so if you’re new to the crypto trading world this may be a good choice. Binance is available for iOS and Android.
    • Coinbase — Coinbase has a smaller variety of coins but offers a number of safety features as well as offering new users $5 in Bitcoin when they sign up and verify their identity. Coinbase supports Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Litecoin, Basic Attention Token, 0x and USD Coin, and trading only requires linking a bank account or debit card. It also offers smart tools that provide updates on coin performance and news, as well as a knowledge base for learning more about what cryptocurrencies are and how to trade them. Coinbase describes itself as having bank-level security, and even allows users who lose their devices to disable the Coinbase app to avoid theft. Coinbase is available on iOS and Android.
    • Robinhood — Stock and cryptocurrency trading app Robinhood faced a backlash in early 2021 when it froze sales of GameStop stocks amid a Reddit-backed surge, and it crashed during a surge in the price of Dogecoin recently as well. Despite its problems, Robinhood is a user- and beginner-friendly app that offers support for both cryptocurrency and regular stock trading. Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin SV, Dogecoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic and Litecoin are all available for trade in the app. Robinhood is available on iOS and Android.
    • Sofi — Sofi isn’t just a cryptocurrency trading app, nor does it just offer stocks in addition to crypto. It’s more like an all-in-one finance management app for investing, banking and credit cards. Sofi offers crypto, stocks, fractional shares, ETFs, IPOs, a debit card, credit monitoring, loans. If you want to invest without having to micromanage your holdings, Sofi offers automated investing as well, which uses algorithms to determine the best opportunities for turning investments into returns. Sofi is available on iOS and Android.
    • Gemini — The Gemini exchange, founded by the Winklevoss twins, is all about security. It requires two-factor authentication for all accounts, keeps the majority of deposits in offline air-gapped cold storage (assets in hot storage are insured), and uses least-privilege principles for access control in its production environment. In addition, its hardware security modules generate and store keys in-house and require “the coordinated action of multiple employees to operate,” and its whole operation is the first exchange to earn SOC1 type 1 and SOC 2 type 2 certification. In short, Gemini’s security is probably some of the best in the crypto market industry. Gemini is available on iOS and Android.

US government Strikes back at Kremlin for SolarWinds Hack

  • US officials on formally blamed Russia for backing one of the worst espionage hacks in recent US history and imposed sanctions designed to mete out punishments for that and other recent actions.
  • In a joint advisory, the National Security Agency, FBI, and Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency said that Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service carried out the supply-chain attack on customers of the network management software from SolarWinds.
  • The operation infected SolarWinds’ software build and distribution system and used it to push backdoored updates to about 18,000 customers.
  • The hackers then sent follow-up payloads to about 10 US federal agencies and about 100 private organizations.
  • NSA says Russian state hackers are using a VMware flaw to penetrate networks
  • The advisory went on to say that the Russian intelligence service is continuing its campaign, in part by targeting networks that have yet to patch one of the five following critical vulnerabilities.
    • CVE-2018-13379 Fortinet FortiGate VPN
    • CVE-2019-9670 Synacor Zimbra Collaboration Suite
    • CVE-2019-11510 Pulse Secure Pulse Connect Secure VPN
    • CVE-2019-19781 Citrix Application Delivery Controller and Gateway
    • CVE-2020-4006 VMware Workspace ONE Access
  • The US Treasury Department, meanwhile, imposed sanctions. The measures include new prohibitions on Russian sovereign debt and sanctions on six Russia-based firms that the Treasury Department said “supported the Russian Intelligence Services’ efforts to carry out malicious cyber activities against the United States.”